Bombs for Babies

Stephen Jordi planned to blow up abortion clinics. Does that make him a terrorist?

In the early evening of Tuesday, November 11, 2003, Stephen Jordi parked his 1988 Ford Aerostar van in a lot south of the Sunset Harbor Marina in Miami Beach. With him was a friend he'd made in August, Stewart Welch.

The two looked almost identical: middle-aged white men with flabby chests, soft abdomens, and shaved scalps intended to hide receding hairlines. Yet they seemingly had more in common than appearance. Jordi and Welch were God-fearing men who despised gays and believed that abortion was murder. In fact, two months earlier, the pair had traveled more than 300 miles north to the tiny Central Florida town of Starke. They had stood outside prison gates to protest the case of Paul Hill, the first man to be executed in the United States for anti-abortion-related violence.

Like Hill, Jordi considered himself a soldier of God whose violent acts would inspire followers. Stored in the rear of the 36-year-old Coconut Creek man's van was proof: two five-gallon cans of gasoline, several tanks of propane, flares, and cylinders of aerosol ether. Jordi had enough flammable material and accelerant to turn a Planned Parenthood clinic into a crater.

S. Romero
Stephen Jordi said he had a plan to firebomb abortion clinics.
Stephen Jordi said he had a plan to firebomb abortion clinics.
In September, Jordi and FBI informant Stewart Welch (right, with Jordi) protested Paul Hill's execution in Starke, Florida.
In September, Jordi and FBI informant Stewart Welch (right, with Jordi) protested Paul Hill's execution in Starke, Florida.
Jordi and his family lived in this mobile home in Coconut Creek.
Colby Katz
Jordi and his family lived in this mobile home in Coconut Creek.
Stephen Jordi and his family attended Bible studies at Daniels Bible Book Store in Hollywood. On December 2, 2000, Jordi allegedly abused his son, Noah, behind the store.
Colby Katz
Stephen Jordi and his family attended Bible studies at Daniels Bible Book Store in Hollywood. On December 2, 2000, Jordi allegedly abused his son, Noah, behind the store.

The two men took the bomb-making materials and walked casually along the palm tree-lined docks that extend behind the posh Sunset Harbour Condominiums. They opened the fourth gate, at Dock D, and sauntered past moored yachts before coming to the vessel that Welch called home. Here, in the shadows of Miami Beach's soaring condominium towers, they planned to store the explosive materials.

Inside the boat, Welch told Jordi that he had something for him, then pointed to a Springfield .45-caliber pistol with a silencer and two empty magazines on the bed. Jordi gave his friend $200.

Not long after, it happened. FBI and ATF agents, guns drawn and loaded, stormed in. A Coast Guard boat patrolled the surrounding waters. Jordi was standing on the dock as the lights, noise, and voices of approaching law-enforcement officers grew brighter and louder.

He raised his hands into the air. But that was merely a ploy. Jordi was a desperate man, betrayed and confused. He jumped into the cool azure as agents closed in for the arrest.

"Give it up, Jordi. You have nowhere to go," yelled FBI Special Agent Anthony C. Montgomery. Jordi didn't respond. He swam south through the dark water, nearly reaching Dock B, roughly 150 yards away, near the south end of the marina.

Standing on Dock B, an agent addressed him: "Are you a Satanist, Jordi?"

"Not anymore," he yelled from the water. "I'm a Christian. I love my God. I love my children. What have I done but obey my Lord thy God?"

"Are you a child molester?" another agent asked.

"I love my children!"

Jordi pushed away from the dock, swimming quietly into the waterway.

From land, Welch pleaded with his friend to cooperate.

"How can I trust you?" Jordi responded. "You lied to me."

As Jordi continued away from the docks, a Coast Guard boat motored toward him. Federal agents grabbed Jordi's 220-pound body by his royal-blue oxford and pulled him onto the vessel like a prize catch.

Jordi would be charged with attempted arson, distribution of an explosive device, and possession of an unlicensed firearm and silencer. Four months after his capture, he would plead guilty to attempted arson. On July 8, he was sentenced to five years in prison.

He'd likely still be living in his rundown trailer in Coconut Creek were it not for a professional snitch with a financial interest in his prosecution. While Stephen Jordi is an odious character by almost any measure, he had no criminal record and never tried to hurt anyone or destroy anything. His case illustrates the government's increasingly aggressive attempt to shut down a shadowy terrorist organization known as the Army of God.


The seventh of eight children, Stephen Jordi grew up in Ham Lake, Minnesota, about 25 miles north of Minneapolis. Raised a Catholic, he attended Blaine High School and, as a teenager, considered himself a Satanist. In 1985, Jordi entered the Army, where he became a Ranger trained in outdoor survival skills. Sometime after entering the military, Jordi cut off contact with his family. "He tried to keep them in the dark," recalls his father-in-law, who asked that his name not be used.

The Minnesotan was drawn to the Bible following his stint in the military and had the tattoos to prove it. On his right arm were the words SALVATION and REPENT. On his left, HOLY BIBLE, KING JAMES, and HELL. Jordi found solace in the fire-and-brimstone teachings of the Baptist church. In January 1998, he moved to Pensacola, Florida, and met his wife, Charlotte, then an impressionable young woman looking for answers from a strict God, according to her stepfather. Jordi's religious beliefs were impure at best. After his arrest, Jordi mixed biblical metaphors with popular science fiction during a psychiatric evaluation, describing angels as "The Borg," cyborg villains from Star Trek.

Soon after Jordi and Charlotte married in May 1998, she became pregnant and withdrew from her family. Jordi was concerned that Charlotte's relatives would be a bad influence on the child. "He didn't think we were good Christians because we don't go to church every week," his father-in-law says.

Indeed, Jordi's religious fanaticism apparently deepened in Pensacola. Spiderman Scott Mulholland, a forensics investigator whose love of climbing inspired him to legally change his name to that of the agile Marvel superhero, can't forget the day he met Jordi at First Pentecostal Church in Pensacola in the spring of 1999. The Minnesotan was dressed in camouflage pants and had allowed his light-brown facial hair to grow into a scraggly beard. Mulholland, a former drug addict who credits the church with helping him kick his habit, didn't want to judge Jordi by his rough appearance. The former Marine struck up conversation with the new parishioner. They soon discovered that they had the military in common.

Jordi seemed to open up, so Mulholland invited him to a Bible-study class at his home on Saturday, May 22, 1999.

The session proved less than productive. "He became very cold, callous," Mulholland remembers. "He had this perverted doctrine."

"I don't believe in miracles," Mulholland remembers Jordi saying.

"What about Jesus giving the man 20/20 vision?" Mulholland asked.

That's when Jordi stood up and walked briskly out of the house. Mulholland followed. Jordi then presented him with a brown paper bag. "I want to give you this," he remembers Jordi saying. Jordi opened the sack and threw the contents at Mulholland. "If you believe in miracles," he yelled, "then handle this!"

A rattlesnake spilled out.

Mulholland brushed off the snake, fortuitously avoiding a bite. "I'll give you ten seconds to get out of here," he told his guest.

"Mark 16," Jordi then allegedly said, referring to a biblical passage that says of God's followers: "They will pick up serpents [with their hands]... it will not harm them."

And he left.

But Jordi wasn't finished. The next morning, while sitting in a pew with his family during a service at First Pentecostal Church, Mulholland looked over to see Jordi walking toward the pastor, a brown paper bag in his hands. Mulholland knew exactly what was in that bag.

The former Marine jumped up, signaled to the ushers, and confronted Jordi before he could make it to the altar. Together, he and the ushers escorted Jordi outside. A parishioner called the Escambia County Sheriff's Office, which issued Jordi a trespassing warning. The deputies knew the man's reputation. Jordi had previously caused similar disturbances at a flea market and a Greyhound bus station, inciting others into shouting matches about God and religion.

"He has a very elusive spirit," Mulholland recalls. "It wasn't until I got to know him that I realized he had psychological problems. When you first talk to him, he's real nice, a Ted Bundy. Everything in the name of God, he said. But there was no basis in Scripture. He was just free-flowing and had his own concepts. That's a very dangerous person."

Mulholland never saw Jordi again. That's because the man without miracles had taken his family more than 600 miles south to start a new life in Broward County.


On a June afternoon, Lydia Daniels sits behind the cash register of Daniels Bible Book Store, a pink building on the corner of Hallandale Beach Boulevard and U.S. 441, in a rundown section of Hollywood. Wearing a purple, African-style dress and head garb, the 57-year-old Daniels greets customers as they enter the store. "Welcome," she says. "God bless you."

Daniels smiles hesitantly. "I knew Stephen," she says. "He was a good man, a family man, a religious man."

After moving from Pensacola, Jordi worked at an Amoco gas station and rented an apartment in Hallandale Beach, within walking distance of Daniels' business. The family was growing. His first son, Noah, was going on 2 years old, and Charlotte was pregnant with the couple's second child. The family regularly attended Bible study at Daniels' bookstore. During one session, on Tuesday, December 12, 2000, Noah was having trouble staying still and keeping quiet. Jordi took him outside. At the time, a man named Carlos Restrepo was in his backyard, which faces the bookstore. At 9 p.m., Restrepo would later tell police, he heard a child crying. He looked over and saw a small boy lying on the sidewalk. A man later identified as Jordi stood above him. Jordi began to hit the boy in the face repeatedly.

When Restrepo yelled, ordering the man to stop, Jordi picked up his son and went back into the bookstore, according to the report. Restrepo ran to a neighbor's house and called police. Broward sheriff's deputies arrived to investigate. Noah's cheeks were red, they observed, and a large mark could be seen below the boy's right eye. Deputy Anthony Lott questioned Charlotte about her husband's style of discipline. She told the deputy that the couple used a method called "time out" when their son misbehaved. He asked her to demonstrate. "Time out consists of a maneuver in which the child is seated with both legs stretched out together," Lott wrote in his report. "Stephen Jordi then forces the head of Noah Jordi down to his knees in a sitting position until the head touches the knees. When this was demonstrated briefly in my presence, the child wailed out, crying in agony. Charlotte Jordi advised that Stephen Jordi will do this until the child stops crying or until about five minutes have expired."

Deputies arrested Jordi, charging him with felony child abuse. BSO superiors then advised the deputies to release Noah to his mother's custody because "the child did not appear to be in danger of harm," according to the police report.

Daniels shakes her head, remembering the incident. That was the last day she saw the Jordis. "We don't agree with that charge," she says. "The police never asked us what happened. Stephen wouldn't abuse his child. He was a good man."

After his arrest, Jordi bonded out and fled with his family to Pensacola. Six weeks later, the Broward State Attorney's Office dropped the charge. According to a memorandum by Dan Stiffler, then an assistant state attorney in the sex crimes/child abuse unit, authorities could not locate Restrepo, the witness. Further complicating matters, Stiffler wrote, was that Jordi and his family had relocated. "We do not have an independent witness to identify the defendant, and additionally, we cannot even produce the child to bring in because the child is now in Pensacola," Stiffler wrote on January 30, 2001.

By summer 2002, the Jordis had returned to Broward County, buying a trailer in Country Lakes, a 500-lot mobile home park in Coconut Creek, and becoming active in a Baptist church near the Florida Turnpike.


Storm clouds gather from the north as the parking lot outside Lyons Creek Middle School fills with worshipers in their Sunday best. It's 6 p.m. on Father's Day, and the crowd of roughly 100 people, mostly white and seemingly middle class, is here for First Baptist at Hillsboro's evening service.

The church advocates a strict interpretation of the Bible, and its pastors refer to the conflict in the Middle East as a "holy war" against Islam. For the past two years, its leaders have been turning the public middle school's auditorium into a house of worship. The location is temporary; the congregation has financed a new church, which is under construction on Hillsboro Boulevard in Coconut Creek.

Until that's finished, Pastor Jerry Williamson, a tall, blond man with spectacles and a habit of waving his right arm, must settle for the linoleum-floored theater decorated with pictures of a lion, the school mascot. Williamson addresses his congregation in a deep, confident voice. "We are nothing but pebbles before God," he says. "Through faith, now you have made us perfect, one with God, accepted. This is a marvelous, wonderful blessing -- not just a concept but indeed a blessing. If there is one in this room that has never brought their sins to the cross, I pray tonight will be their hour."

"Amen!" the crowd chants.

It was in this school auditorium that Stephen Jordi met Stewart Welch during a Sunday service on August 17, 2003. Jordi often helped out around the church, taking care of the lawn at the office on Hillsboro Boulevard. "He hounded me," Jordi would later say of Welch in a tape-recorded telephone conversation with a friend. "I was really amazed. He was asking me stupid questions, like, 'Well, I'm thinking about moving up north [from Miami to Broward County].' I took that opportunity and said, 'OK, fine, here's my Sunday school teacher. He just moved up here and can tell you better the price of land, tax, etc.' I tried to get rid of him, but he wouldn't let me do that."

Indeed, Welch was persistent. Claiming to be an ex-cop strongly opposed to abortion and homosexuality, Welch persuaded Jordi to meet with him for lunch that afternoon at a Denny's on Hillsboro Boulevard in Deerfield Beach. The two men bonded quickly, finding common hatred of gays, abortionists, and "apostate" churches. Jordi confessed to his new friend that he was filled with more than rhetoric. He wanted to take action. "I don't have the means to kill abortion doctors, but I do have the means to bomb clinics," he said, according to a transcript submitted to the court. "Maybe that way, I can dissuade other doctors from performing abortions."

Jordi was a big talker. When this conversation occurred, according to FBI evidence, the only means Jordi had were books about explosives. Jordi told Welch his plan was to wait at least two years, then unleash his bombing spree, starting in Macon, Georgia. "I already told my wife, if I come home, you're gonna turn me in..." he said. "We're gonna spend the afternoon together, and then we're gonna call the cops. You're gonna turn me in, and I'll be gone, 'cause I'm not gonna have my wife getting in trouble. I'm not gonna have her aiding and abetting a worldwide-known terrorist, blowing up faggots and abortion clinics and whatever else."

Welch pressed his companion, inquiring about what he would need to pull off the bombings. "Lots of different ways to get it accomplished," Jordi told him. "I'm looking for the most reasonable and the most efficient and the most safe. Because if I get caught after two or three bombings -- I plan on doing this for the next 30, 40 years, or at least until I get caught... Doesn't have to be a bomb either. Like I said, ah, park your car in front of [the abortion clinic]. And, ah, you know... just put down, you know, 'Bombs for Babies' on the outside of the car, and they're gonna come in there with a magnifying glass and [look] under every corner of that car."

"Well, buddy," Welch responded, "if all we can do is two or three--"

"That would be something."

"It would be something, but it wouldn't be--"

"It would be something, if you can save a couple of lives and make an issue."

"Yeah, yeah, make an issue, but think about how in the next two years, how many children will [die]."

"Yep," Jordi admitted, "there's a war going on, with casualties."

He couldn't have known then that a part of the war was already being waged: His new friend was an FBI informant intent on bringing him down.


Stewart Welch doesn't exist. Not really. Stewart likely isn't even his real name. In court documents, the FBI describes the man Jordi befriended as a paid informant who, since the early '90s, has provided information that has "resulted in the arrest of numerous individuals for federal felony offenses." In other words, Welch is a professional human chameleon who can endear himself to unsuspecting federal targets.

"He might show up as a Donnie Brasco with the Mob next," says Neal Horsley, a Georgia man who is among the de facto leaders of a militant anti-abortion movement known as the Army of God. "He's a mercenary who's not officially employed by the FBI, because by working as a private contractor, he can do things that the FBI is not presently allowed to do, even with the awesome license of the Patriot Act. They can't entrap someone. He can."

Horsley has been investigated by the FBI but never indicted. He and others assert that the group is not an association but an ideology. The FBI thinks otherwise, describing the members as "loosely affiliated extremists [who] can mount high-profile, highly destructive attacks." Informants such as Welch have long tried to infiltrate its ranks, Horsley says. The group's history dates to 1982, when Don Benny Anderson and brothers Matthew and Wayne Moore kidnapped and then released unharmed an Illinois abortion provider and his wife, crediting their actions to the Army of God. Two years later, Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, author of the Roe v. Wade opinion, received a death threat from the shadowy organization. Around the same time, several abortion clinics across the nation were bombed. "Army of God" was written at one of the clinics.

In 1993, after a Wichita housewife named Rachelle "Shelley" Shannon attempted to murder an abortion doctor, law enforcement discovered in her backyard a draft of the Army of God manual. The text, which is now available online, provides tips and information on how to attack abortion clinics. The manual describes the organization as "a real Army, and God is the General and Commander-in-Chief."

Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation (NAF), which represents clinics in the United States and Canada, has a different point of view. "The Army of God is a small group of extremists who believes that it's justifiable to murder abortion providers," she explains. "They actively recruit and train people to commit these acts of violence."

The Army of God's most infamous soldier is Paul Hill, who in 1994 gunned down an abortion provider and his bodyguard as they walked toward a clinic in Pensacola. Hill, who grew up in Coral Gables before moving to the Panhandle, surrendered peacefully to authorities. A former Presbyterian minister, Hill drafted while in prison a doctrine that has become the Army of God's theological cornerstone: "defensive action." It maintains that God condones murder if committed to protect unborn fetuses.

"It's to protect the children that that abortionist is going to kill," explains Horsley, who maintains a website that publishes the names and personal information of abortion providers. "The point of defensive action is to save the babies from being murdered."

Two Army of God soldiers followed Hill. In 1996, Eric Rudolph allegedly bombed Atlanta's Olympic Park, an abortion clinic, and a gay nightclub before leading federal authorities on a five-year manhunt. In 2001, following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Clayton Waagner sent more than 550 anthrax threat letters to abortion clinics and was subsequently captured by the FBI. Waagner received 30 years in prison; Rudolph faces the death penalty if convicted.

Jordi had long told family members and fellow churchgoers that he admired Hill, Rudolph, and Waagner, according to the FBI. If he were going to bomb abortion clinics, Jordi told Welch, he'd hide in the woods while authorities searched for him in the cities. Jordi explained that he wanted to be "on the run" and "go Lone Ranger." Authorities would find collaring him as difficult as "trying to catch a cockroach in a house," Jordi said.

But if he were caught, Jordi had a plan. He wanted to be famous. He wanted to be the next Paul Hill. "I told my wife, when I get to prison, she needs to save all my letters," Jordi told Welch.

Yet last September, as the Florida Department of Corrections was about to put Hill to death, Jordi appeared wise enough not to let on about his violent plans when he traveled to the prison in Starke, north of Gainesville. With him were Welch, Horsley, and other purported members of the Army of God. Strangely, through Welch, the federal government had financed Jordi's trip, even though his presence would later be used against him.

While in Starke, a reporter from the Gainesville Sun questioned Jordi about Hill. "Conviction warrants action," Jordi said. "Paul Hill was given that conviction, but not everyone was." At the time, Jordi told the reporter, God hadn't given him such a "conviction."

But Jordi's brother wasn't convinced. Michael Jordi, who lives in Alabama and refused to comment for this article, informed the FBI that he believed Jordi was likely to commit violence. The federal agency, in turn, assigned Welch to become Jordi's new best friend.

The move seemed appropriate. The FBI has stepped up its investigation of the Army of God, the NAF's Saporta says: "In the past year, the case seems to be that the FBI is investigating and arresting these extremists before they act." Jordi was among the first to be apprehended as a result of this greater vigilance. Last month, federal agents raided 41-year-old John Mikula's home near Buffalo, New York, and discovered bomb ingredients. Authorities are now holding Mikula, an alleged Army of God associate, on stalking charges.

Following Hill's execution, Jordi became increasingly combative about his beliefs. He began to question people at First Baptist at Hillsboro about whether it was moral to blow up abortion clinics. The questioning scared Pastor Jerry Williamson. On November 7, 2003, he faxed a letter to the Coconut Creek Police Department. "Our counsel to him was that scripture teaches against violence and that it would be un-Biblical," Williamson wrote. "He asked the same question on a few occasions and received the same answer from each of the pastors on staff. He then asked that his name be removed from the membership of First Baptist at Hillsboro as he disagreed with our stance on the issue.

"We do not believe that he will move forward on this issue," Williamson continued, "but we do feel that it is our responsibility to inform the city of this specific clergy counsel."

But Williamson was wrong. Jordi did move forward -- with a little help from a friend.


Welch had gained Jordi's absolute trust. They'd made a pact. On October 27, 2003, the two men swore to each other, hands on the Good Book, that neither was a "fed." The time had come. Jordi's wife was pregnant once again.

"One night in October, he called up and asked, if something happened to him, would we take Charlotte and the children," remembers Jordi's father-in-law. "Of course, being the grandparents, why wouldn't we?"

Though he kept Charlotte from her parents during most of their marriage, Jordi in early November escorted his family to Pensacola and returned to South Florida alone. He and Welch would move the plot forward.

On November 11, Jordi and his friend met at the Deerfield Beach Denny's where they'd eaten lunch three months earlier. The two men then left together in Jordi's van, driving a few miles south to a Home Depot on SW 12th Avenue, near Interstate 95. They purchased gloves and two five-gallon gasoline tanks and then headed south. Next, they bought flares and starter fluid at an auto-parts store and propane tanks at Outdoor World in Dania Beach. Once they filled the gasoline tanks at a Shell station on Alton Road in Miami Beach later that afternoon, they had in their possession all the necessary ingredients for a devastating firebomb.

That evening, Jordi and Welch arrived at the boat at Sunset Harbor Marina and unloaded the materials they'd bought during the day. Welch motioned to the .45 and silencer, Jordi gave him $200, and federal agents swooped in. Jordi dove into the water. Forty-five minutes later, he was pulled onto a Coast Guard vessel, wet and arrested.

Eight days after his arrest, the imprisoned Jordi called Horsley of the Army of God, alleging that he had been entrapped by federal agents. "Everything that was arranged was arranged by [Welch]," Jordi said in a tape-recorded conversation provided to New Times. "And everything he wanted to buy, he paid for most of it... He asked me several times to do illegal activities... He said, 'Let's go rob some cop cars, because then we can get a bulletproof vest. '"

He had no intention of bombing abortion clinics in the near future, Jordi told Horsley. He was just stocking up. Indeed, though the pair cased a Fort Lauderdale abortion clinic, there is no evidence that Jordi and Welch ever discussed a date or target for the bombing spree. And the anti-abortionist told the snitch that he didn't plan to act in Florida, which made an immediate attack highly unlikely. "I had a two- to six-year plan," he told Horsley. "My two- to six-year plan included going into the wilderness in two different survival courses, which would have been two and a half years, for the purpose of prayer and study. It did not involve blowing up places, at least until I'd gleaned a whole bunch of information [about God's view of bombing abortion clinics]. This was basically thought control... That was my whole point, to get information. But I didn't think getting information was illegal."

"Obviously, that was a fundamental error," Horsley told his Army of God colleague. "You look like the person that they were looking for to set the Army of God network myth in motion."

"They've also mentioned you guys, trying to get you in trouble. 'I've been associating with known terrorists,'" Jordi said, laughing.


Jordi expected prison. "They're gonna be changing my diapers in jail, I promise you that," he had told Welch. But Jordi couldn't have realized that he'd be behind bars after being lured by a professional snitch, never having bombed the first abortion clinic. That's because it's still unclear whether Jordi intended to take action. In many ways, despite the fact that Jordi is an unlikable person, his case illustrates the federal government's post-9/11 aggressiveness.

On November 25, prosecutors charged Jordi with three felonies. He faced up to 50 years prison.

Though Jordi undoubtedly could have mounted a solid entrapment defense, his attorney, Anne Lyons, would have had difficulty persuading jurors to separate intellect from emotion. Building sympathy for Jordi would have been nearly impossible. The government could have presented hour after hour of tape-recorded conversations in which Jordi expressed hatred of everyone from abortionists to gays to Catholics. Additionally, following Jordi's indictment, the federal government had threatened to charge his wife with conspiracy.

As a result, Jordi pleaded to just one of the three charges, attempted arson, in February. Prosecutors dropped the other counts and agreed not to charge Charlotte. Federal sentencing guidelines stipulated up to 20 years in prison, with a mandatory minimum of five years. "Taking the plea seemed the safest thing for Jordi and his family," a lawyer close to the case says.

But in May, Assistant U.S. Attorney John Schlesinger raised the stakes, asking a federal judge to forsake guidelines and sentence Jordi as a terrorist, which is allowed for under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) and the USA Patriot Act. Schlesinger requested that Jordi receive ten years in prison.

Buying gasoline and propane isn't illegal unless purchased to make a bomb. Jordi never made that bomb. He only talked about it.

"This is the first time I've heard of this... being used against a person who is clearly not a terrorist," says Jennifer Van Bergen, a legal scholar who is a board member of Broward's chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. "This was one of the concerns that people like myself had when these laws passed."

The dilemma with federal antiterrorism laws, says Van Bergen, is that they provide a vague definition of terrorism. Painting an intimidating message on the side of an automobile or self-inflicted violence in public could be acts of terror under current laws.

"Criminal laws are meant to stop criminal behavior," Van Bergen says. "Now, they're trying to define an abstract concept. It's illegal to be a terrorist. But what is a terrorist? This is where a lot of problems are beginning to arise. What's happening with AEDPA and with the Patriot Act is what happened with RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act). That law was originally supposed to be used against the Mafia. Now, it's being used against white-collar criminals."

On July 8, U.S. District Judge James Cohn ruled against Schlesinger, finding that the antiterrorism provisions require Jordi's crime to "transcend national boundaries." He sentenced the Coconut Creek man to five years in prison. But the issue is far from over. Jordi likely won't be the last person to fall victim to unclear laws written with al Qaeda in mind.

"We will see cases like this in the future," Schlesinger said outside the courtroom. "Stephen Jordi won't be the last."

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